This is a shot from a six second shoot of a man that I met in Chicago's Grant Park on May 30th of 2011.
I consider one of those photographs that I took during that shoot to be the best portrait I've ever shot.
I had taken my two youngest daughters out to do a little daytime street shooting.
We encountered this man as we walked through the park.
He was sitting on a park bench and he stopped us with a 'hey.'
Before I could put my camera up to my eye he said 'would you like to take a picture of a homeless person.'
Without hesitation, I looked him in the eye and said 'no.'
For a second he looked puzzled.
Maybe because I stood there with the camera ready to shoot...
'I'd like to take a picture of a 'person'' I said.
He understood what I meant immediately... I could tell that it struck him.
And his look grew somewhat confounded as his brow furrowed and I began to shoot...
Without pretext I had recognized him not for his circumstances, but I had recognized him for what he was... a human being... a person... no different from I.
I think it was his reaction to that recognition that made the photographs that I took of him to be photographs that I consider to be my best work ever.
Sometimes I've wondered if he himself hadn't forgot that he was a 'person' and the moment captured that realization.
We were two people... I don't consider myself a 'homeowner person' ever... and I didn't consider him to be a 'homeless person' at that moment.
He was a person.
Something about the sparse words exchanged created a connection between him, the camera and myself in that moment and everytime I look at the images I took in those six seconds I remember the power and weight that connection seemed to carry for both of us.
I don't shoot black people or white people, rich people or poor people, good people or bad people, beautiful people or not so beautiful people.
I photograph people.
Street shooting changed my life, if only for one very powerful reason...
Like so many in life I was struggling... I was looking for answers.
I tended to look within myself for some understanding that I never seemed to find.
Shooting strangers and their lives and their moments on the street...
It caused me to look outside of myself to understand them, their circumstances, their worries, their joys, their dreams and their worldly existences.
A powerful paradigm within me had shifted.
And though I am fluent with the language it's hard for me to put the understanding that I've gained in this endeavor into words that might make sense to you.
But I can only tell you that in looking outside of myself to understand others that I've come so far in the quest to understand 'myself.'
I don't think that would have happened if shooting people on the street hadn't become a deep passion of mine.
I owe so many so much.
This man is one of those I'm indebted to.
This moment was the most powerful moment of any capture I've ever made.
When I was habitually focusing inward, this moment made me look outside of myself.
And in looking outside of myself something dramatic and powerful had come about.
I understood so many things so much more clearly.
One day, should our paths cross again I will find the appropriate words to thank this man.
Words that will convey my sincere gratitude for the benefit of the moment to myself, my soul and my search.
He and others showed me that while I was trying to figure out the world, that at the same time the world was trying to figure out me.
It was all a circle.
A powerful circle indeed.
If I could leave you with only one photograph, one of these that I took of this man would be it.
If I could leave you with only one message it would be this...
Every portrait is a self portrait.